For many of us, the phrase ”new Beyoncé single” triggers a Pavlovian response. It starts with frantic mouse clicks, followed by a mad grab for headphones and a total loss of awareness of the outside world for the next four minutes (at minimum). That’s because we know what the reward can be: a sui generis jam like ”Crazy in Love” or ”Single Ladies” that lifts pop music to a new level of perfectly controlled chaos.
But lately, Queen Bey hasn’t given us much to drool over — or at least, anything new. After owning the Super Bowl halftime show and launching the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in April, she failed to deliver what seemed like a natural next step: a real opening salvo from her planned 2013 album (now on track for a November release). Instead we’ve been left with a string of semi-official tracks that feel more like intriguing puzzles. March’s ”Bow Down/I Been On” was a cerebral meditation on power; April’s ”Standing on the Sun” and May’s ”Grown Woman” boogied to intricate West African-inspired beats that sounded (and sadly stayed) miles away from Top 40.
It’s no surprise that her most recent offering, the pandering ballad ”Rise Up,” isn’t top-shelf Beyoncé; it’s a tie-in to the animated movie Epic, which she has a role in, and sounds every bit as rigid as the contract clause that probably made her record it. But she’ll be back on her own terms soon: She’s already reportedly logged studio time with Kanye, Miguel, and Justin Timberlake — fellow trailblazers who surely spark Bey’s creativity more than, say, a bit part in a CG movie about forest sprites. So even though ”Rise Up” is a solid C, we’re willing to scratch it from her permanent record and wait for her to bring her A game again.